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Anglophone Cameroon: Only CPDM candidates in first regional polls

By Franck Foute, in Yaoundé
Posted on Tuesday, 27 October 2020 16:42

Cameroon Election
A man inks his finger after casting his ballot in Briqueterie, Cameroon on October 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

In the crisis-stricken North-West and South-West Anglophone regions, the ruling party will be alone on the ballot in regional elections taking place on 6 December.

In a little over a month, the municipal councillors and traditional chiefs of the North-West and South-West regions will take part in Cameroon’s first-ever regional elections. Unlike the country’s eight other regions, all French-speaking, voters on 6 December will elect, in addition to regional councillors, the first members of the House of Chiefs.

This post-colonial assembly was overhauled by authorities during the Major National Dialogue, held in October 2019. The institution seeks to further empower these regions impacted by secessionist movements that broke out into armed conflict in 2016 and continue to this day.

According to ELECAM, the electoral board in charge of elections, the campaign will begin on 23 November. Both in the North-West and the South-West, every candidate standing for election is affiliated with the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party.

Decentralisation

The ruling party is benefitting largely from the withdrawal of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), which called on citizens to boycott the elections. The John Fru Ndi-led party demands that the crisis affecting the Anglophone regions be resolved before any new elections are held. Other parties were unable to present a full list of candidates.

The CPDM is thus expected to make a clean sweep of all 70 councillor seats and 20 representative seats up for grabs in each of the two regions. But observers’ attention is now firmly focused on the selection of the figures set to take over the future regional authorities.

READ MORE Anglophone Cameroon: Fear and anger after massacre of students

Yaoundé has made regions a cornerstone of the decentralisation process and intends to rely on trusted local leaders to manage them.

In the North-West, Professor Angwafo III Fru Fobushi is slated to become chair of the regional council. Son of the powerful Fon Angwafo III of Mankon, the first village constituting Bamenda, this doctor and general manager of the Yaoundé Gynaeco-Obstetric Hospital is part of a family with close ties to the government. In fact, Fon Angwafo III has been a vice-chair of the CPDM since 1990. The former MP is also, at 95 years old, one of three chiefs standing for election in the Mezam department, and could therefore pick up a seat in the House of Chiefs.

Security concerns

In the South-West, former prime minister Peter Mafany Musonge has had a very active hand in selecting the candidates vying to become regional council chair. Chief Mafany Njie Martin is favoured by Musonge, a former associate of Paul Biya, as well as by the region’s elites. However, his troubled relationship with Okalia Bilai, governor of the region, could be a handicap.

In Buea, the capital of the South-West, officials have yet to come to terms with events that transpired in May 2019, when Mafany Njie Martin opposed the governor’s decision to allow traditional chiefs to participate in a parade celebrating the country’s national holiday (20 May). His opposition was greeted with hostility by the local administrative elite, though it won him support among his peers and community members.

READ MORE Cameroon: Opposition leader Kamto calls for ‘anti-Biya’ protest

On 19 October, Georges Elanga Obam, minister of decentralisation, kicked off a tour of the two Anglophone regions to visit sites that could potentially house the first regional authorities. Aware of the security concerns of some electoral board members, the minister sought to be reassuring. “The government intends to let nothing get in the way of the electoral process,” he said.

In a meeting with Obam, a number of municipal councillors, mayors and traditional chiefs renewed their push for heightened security measures that would allow them to return to their homes. Apart from certain localities, an unstable security environment reigns, forcing municipal authority members to live in Bamenda.

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